- By Pacific Island News Times News Staff
Taitague facing ethics complaint
Former police chief Joseph F. Cruz has filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Telo T. Taitague alleging she abused her power when she was deputy general manager of the Guam Visitors Bureau.
Cruz alleged Taitague accepted "kickbacks" from a vendor who was doing business with GVB.
Citing minutes from a GVB board's executive session on Nov. 23, 2016, Cruz said the discussions centered on Taitague’s "incompetence associated with her work performance," her tendency to bypass protocol and directly interfering with vendors.
"However, what was the most concerning comment in the document was a mention by board member Bruce Kloppenburg who was quoted by stating, 'then there was the kickback,'” Cruz said in an ethic complaint letter filed Monday with the legislature.
Cruz said Kloppenburg was making a reference to a high-end purse, originally meant for an employee raffle, which Taitague allegedly received from a vendor.
"Two employees were apparently involved in this “kickback” ordeal, and only one was implicated and was made to apologize and return the gift. Ms. Taitague, who was clearly a protected political hire from the Governor’s office (based on the discussions in those transcripts) was never disciplined, was never required to apologize, and kept the purse," Cruz said.
In response to Cruz's complaint, Taitague dismissed the new ethics complaint
as a "politically orchestrated effort" to silence her and discredit her "straight talk, no-nonsense approach to dealing with issues including special interest legislation, potential illegal drug activity and questionable hiring practices in GovGuam – and legislation benefiting members of the legislature and their families."
“Every citizen has the right to register a complaint against an elected official if they suspect illegal activity. I can assure the people of Guam that everything in the ethics complaint filed against me is baseless," she said.
Taitague said she is prepared to answer questions and respond to any investigation by the legislature.
She said Guam voters "didn’t elect me to turn a blind eye to questionable activity in their government."
Meanwhile, Cruz said Taitague got sway with her actions "due to her political connections." However, he added, "evidence is clearly noted in official transcripts that she indeed accepted a 'kickback.'
The former GVB's actions, Cruz said, were "not an accepted standard for someone who serves in public service, and more importantly for one in a position of authority."
He cited the law, which states that "all candidates for any elected public office, board or commission shall not have been convicted of a felony and shall not have been convicted of a misdemeanor involving criminal sexual conduct or crime of moral turpitude.”
Cruz said he found it ironic that Taitague is a co-sponsor of Sen. Sabina Perez's bill mandating that all government employees be required to attend training in government ethics.
"Ms. Taitague certainly has her share of ethical issues and question marks over the years as a public figure, which clearly identifies her morals and character with decision making," Cruz said. "She also has a history related to gambling, inclusive of her association with underground games operated illicitly throughout the island."
Cruz also listed the following incidents:
A September 2015 online edition of the Sunstar Philippines reported Taitague's meeting in Cebu, Philippines with the general manager of a local hotel. Among the discussions was a conversation that included attracting a casino resort to Guam. This meeting was paid for by Guam taxpayers, and this was despite Guam voters rejecting a casino industry in Guam on more than one occasion.
With the known ongoing federal investigation into an illegally operated online gaming syndicate, which includes several local law enforcement officers, many in the community have stated that Taitagueis a frequent visitor of game rooms, is part of the investigation.
In a 2020 financial disclosure report to the Guam Election Commission, Taitague reported that she owns a business, Telophoto, with an estimated value of $10,000. However, Taitague claims that in 2019, she earned $12,630 from this entity. There are no online mentions of the existence of Telophoto, and it is very unusual for a business’s value to be lower than the annual income it generates, as it usually is the opposite. This raises questions as to where this additional income was generated from.
The Guam Legislature’s website states that for the period of Oct. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2020, Taitague issued a contract for Media Design, to Myong Joon Hong, a resident of California. The objective was to create campaign advertising, at taxpayer expenses. Can elected officials utilize their office budgets to aid in paying for campaign ads or is this illegal?